Neighborhoods like this one are major tax revenue sources in many states. (Photo by Pictometry) Much is made here in Texas about our lack of a personal income tax, but I can tell you that doesn't mean millions of us residents are tax-free. There's a 6.25 state sales tax. And Austin is among the cities that also tacks on another 2 percentage points, meaning we pay 8.25 percent tax on most of our purchases. Then there's the county-collected annual tax on our home's value. Property tax pain: I paid our annual residential property tax bill this weekend and I can... Read more →


Small businesses are adapting their operations to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. Some tax breaks in the relief bill enacted at the end of 2020 could help. (Photo by Norma Mortenson via Pexels) Most COVID-19 relief focus has been on the added financial help to individuals. That's understandable. Millions of folks have been struggling to make ends meet as the pandemic has ravaged the economy. But they are facing fiscal woes in large part because their employers are in trouble, too. When companies get their footing back, they can start to rehire laid off staff and things should pick... Read more →


President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery proposal, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, includes among other things a third economic impact payment (EIP). This next payment is $1,400 for individuals earning less than $75,000 or $150,000 for a married couple filing a joint return. That would bring the $600 second EIP to the much-touted $2,000 total. And as with the other two payments, the Internal Revenue Service again will be in charge of getting the money out to eligible recipients. I know. Some of y'all are freaking out. You had issues getting your first EIP authorized by the Coronavirus Aid,... Read more →


There's some good news for people paying student loans. Shortly after taking office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden's directed the Department of Education to continue loan payment relief. The next day, the Department complied. "At the request of President Biden, the Acting Secretary of Education will extend the pause on federal student loan payments and collections and keep the interest rate at 0%," noted the brief statement on the Education Department's website. The Education Department announcement also reiterated the reason cited by Biden: the economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden's Student Loan Executive Order Issued... Read more →


If you want more security for your tax return, the Internal Revenue Service has a deal for you. Every taxpayer now can apply for an Identity Protection Personal Identity Number, or IP PIN. An IP PIN lets the IRS verify that it is indeed you who has filed your tax return. Once you have the six-digit code, the agency won't accept an electronically filed return in your name without it. If a paper return shows up without the IP PIN, it will get added IRS scrutiny. "This is a way to, in essence, lock your tax account, and the IP... Read more →


We got our first tax statement yesterday. It's our mortgage lender's Form 1098 with details on potentially tax-deductible amounts like loan interest and property taxes. This is just one of the documents that millions of taxpayers are awaiting so they can file their returns. In addition to tax-related home transactions, the various documents that are or soon will be on their way include documents detailing income, be it from wages, contract work or retirement accounts; investments; winnings and/or gambling proceeds; and in some cases, health care information. A handful of these documents must be submitted with Form 1040. Most, however,... Read more →


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington, D.C., in 1963 where he delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech. (Photo via Wikimedia) It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021. If there's one tiny, thin silver lining to the terrible times we are enduring due to COVID-19 and political unrest, it's that these awful realities should help us focus on Dr. King's efforts. Equal justice: It is the first MLK Day following the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and too many others that sparked this 21st century drive for... Read more →


Four years ago, Congress forced the Internal Revenue Service to again use private collection agents (PCAs). This third deal with debt collectors came after the IRS ended two previous arrangements when they proved to be, shall we say, problematic. Now it looks like the current IRS PCA collaboration also has some issues. Low collection rate: A recent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report says that the private tax debt collectors currently under IRS contract have brought in just a fraction — 1.79 percent of the total value of accounts — of the $30 billion in unpaid tax they've... Read more →


Soon after Joseph R. Biden trades in his former Vice President honorific for President on Jan. 20, the now-Democratic led Congress will take up the 46th Commander in Chief's COVID-19 relief plan. Millions of Americans, even those who didn't vote for Biden and VP-Elect Kamala Harris, are hoping it passes soon. The key appeal of the plan is more coronavirus relief money. Last year, some House and Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in calling for the second economic relief payment of $2,000 per person. That was trimmed to $600 per person in the final bill that became law on... Read more →


If you file your tax return as early as you can, mark Feb. 12 on your calendar. That's the day this year that the IRS will start accepting and processing 2020 returns. Are you ready for another wild tax season due to the coronavirus pandemic? Neither am I, but it looks like that's what will happen, at least to some degree. When the Internal Revenue Service today opened Free File, its online, no-cost tax preparation and e-filing option, at essentially the same time as it did last year, I was hopeful we were getting back to tax normal. But alas,... Read more →


Attention early tax return filers. The 2021 tax filing season now is officially, although only partially, open. UPDATE, Jan. 15, 11:20 a.m.: The full 2021 filing season will start on Feb. 12. Details to come shortly in a separate post. UPDATE, Jan. 15, 4:00 p.m.: The IRS opened up its Free File site on Jan. 15. It also announced that it will officially open the full 2021 tax filing season on Feb. 12. That's when the IRS will start accepting and processing all 2020 tax returns, regardless of how they are filed. The Internal Revenue Service announced today that eligible... Read more →


Image via GIPHY If you were part of the millions of taxpayers who didn't get their refunds — and I am seeing on social media that even into 2021, some people are still waiting … — the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) feels your pain. NTA Erin M. Collins included that complaint in her list of the 10 most serious problems facing taxpayers. The list is part of the Internal Revenue Service watchdog office's Annual Report to Congress, which was released on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Tax fraud fighting delays: There's a common thread among the 1040s where refunds are delayed. These... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is already accepting e-filed business returns and says Free File for eligible individuals to do their taxes and electronically file at no cost will open in mid-January. If you use Free File, get ready. The Internal Revenue Service says it will open in mid-January. UPDATE, Jan. 15, 2021: Soon is here! The IRS opened up its Free File site on Jan. 15. It also announced that it will officially open the full 2021 tax filing season on Feb. 12. That's when the IRS will start accepting and processing all 2020 tax returns, regardless of how they... Read more →


I'm feeling a bit like the Internal Revenue Service's appointments secretary, but this Friday, Jan. 15, is a date when many taxpayers need to take action. Yes, I'm talking about the fourth estimated tax payment due at the end of this week, but also about some final tax year 2019 housekeeping. Specifically, individuals and businesses who were in the paths of some major disasters last year. The timing of those catastrophes prompted the IRS to give taxpayers who had already filed for an extension to finish their 2019 tax returns until Jan. 15, 2021, to complete them. These folks now... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers are facing a deadline at the end of this week. No, unfortunately I am not talking about the Jan. 15 mark that the Internal Revenue Service is required by law to meet in distributing the second round of COVID-19 economic relief payments. I'm talking about paying Uncle Sam instead of getting money from him. The final estimated tax payment for tax year 2020 is due on Friday, Jan. 15. Taking care of taxes yourself: Around 22 million individuals file these extra tax payments, which total four if you make them for the full tax year. They are... Read more →


UPDATE, Jan. 21, 2021: Congratulations to the owner of the $730.1 million winning Powerball ticket purchased in Western, Maryland. But there's still a chance for all us dreamers. The next Mega Millions jackpot on Friday, Jan. 22, will be at least $970 million — which would be the United States' third-largest lottery jackpot ever. Picking lucky numbers from a lottery game dispenser. More than $1 billion is up for grabs in the two nationwide lotteries. The Powerball jackpot is at $550 million. A solo Mega Millions winner will walk away with $600 million. Since I know you've got your lotteries... Read more →


Image: IRS "A Closer Look" In looking back at 2020, the Internal Revenue Service thinks it did a pretty good job, all things considered. That's the assessment from IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig as his agency released its annual progress report, Internal Revenue Service Progress Update/Fiscal Year 2020 – Putting Taxpayers First. "The COVID-19 pandemic presented some of the greatest challenges to the IRS in its history, both in terms of being able to carry out our mission and in protecting the health and safety of taxpayers and our own workforce," wrote Rettig wrote in the report's opening message. "IRS employees... Read more →


When the Internal Revenue Service issued the first round of COVID-19 economic relief payments as debit cards last year, a lot of them ended up in trash cans. Many folks thought the mailing was just another slick marketing attempt to get them to apply for an added credit card. They tossed those envelopes and the valuable relief cards they contained in the trash. So that this next batch of approximately 8 million COVID relief debit cards now hitting (or at least heading to) mail boxes isn't mistaken for junk mail, the IRS has made changes to the envelope. Clear envelope... Read more →


Misdirected direct deposits of COVID-19 economic relief payments are getting a lot of attention. They should. But this is not a new problem. Lost electronic tax refunds happen every filing season. What is new is the mechanism the Treasury Department established at the end of 2020 to deal with errant Internal Revenue Service direct deposits. A new regulation, the final version of which was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 22, 2020, details how taxpayers report this problem and how the IRS should handle it and get filers their misdirected money. Previously, not the IRS's problem: More of us... Read more →


If you're among those anxiously awaiting your second COVID-19 economic relief payment (EIP), you have one more thing to worry about. Scammers are trying to get their hands on your money before you do. These criminals also are trying to get you to help them do just that. And the latest confusion about delivery of relief money to closed bank accounts could increase coronavirus relief scams. Bad bank account problems: Up to 14 million taxpayers who used tax preparation software to file their returns last year and opted to get advances of their expected refunds on pre-paid debit cards are... Read more →